Mysterious leg issues

Well I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to write a post like this but after my leg issues came back last week I figured I would write down some thoughts and my feelings so I can get things out.  If you have been following my blog for a few years you might remember my leg issues I had before and during IM Wisconsin in 2012.  I never got an answer on what went wrong and why it happened but I talked to triathlon author and coach Matt Fitzgerald and he said that sometimes the muscles protect themselves during taper by basically shutting down.  Thus, I couldn’t get my body to move the way I wanted it to because my brain shut my muscles down to prevent injury.  The body/mind is a crazy ass thing.  It is so smart and how it can prevent injury but also so frustrating when this happens.

I will try to describe what the pain or feeling is like but it is so hard to put into words.  Basically what it feels like when it happens is my muscle cramps up, contracts, then does not let go.  So working out is impossible and depending on where the “cramp/spasm” is walking becomes painful.  And the worst part about these issues is how they just pop up randomly.  They did not happen last year and I was fine until last Monday when on the trainer my quad went to crap, then my calves, then other quad.  I got a massage from a sports guy and he said I had a weak right glute which caused my left side to overcompensate and my calves had to prevent my legs from straying from the correct gait.  And thus they were over worked.

I have been trying to think of what differences there are between this year and last year to try to figure out what it could be.  The only thing I can think of is me going gluten free last year.  So maybe I will go back to that and see how my body reacts.  But either way this is very frustrating to lose a week of training because my legs can’t work.  But hopefully all will be good going forward and if there are any PTs or docs out there reading or if anyone might have suggestions I am all ears!

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Chi-Town 1/2 Marathon RR

Felt pretty good at the start

Felt pretty good at the start

The first race of the season came and went.  It was a good opening race but not as good as I wanted.  First I’ll set up my mindset going into the race then go into a little bit about race day and all that.  I did this race last year and it was like 60 and sunny; ya know spring weather.  Welp, looking at the 10 day forecast it was looking like it was going to be like high 35 with 20-30 MPH winds.  Ugh!  That is not a good weather day for a PR.  I kept checking the weather everyday to see what it would be like but not much change.  My time goal coming into the race was 1:19.  I picked that time because it would automatically qualify me for the New York City Marathon.  I was not 100% sure I could get to that time but my training has been going amazing so far and I went 1:21 last year so I was going to give it a shot.  So I was a bit disappointed in the weather because the cold is one thing but throw in cold and wind and that is just no good for a fast day.

So I wake up on Sunday AM and have my coffee, Bonk Breaker bars (toying around with my pre-race breakfast since I don’t eat much gluten anymore), then head to the race site.  I was lucky that I have a small car and was able to park, literally, right near the start.  I got there at like 7:10 for the 8:15 start so I picked up my packet then went back to my car to sit in the warmth.  The day was not looking like a good day for that 1:19.  My race plan going into the day was to ease into the race and start off running the first few miles 6:10-6:15, which is off pace for the 6:02 for the 1:19.

Yeah, the finishing stretch was brutal.  Especially with the wind.

Yeah, the finishing stretch was brutal. Especially with the wind.

I get out of my car, head out for a little warm up jog to try to warm up my legs.  The half marathon ran alongside a 10k, but I will get into that a bit later.  Get to the start line and do the normal stand around for a few minutes and shake my legs nervously thing.  Not much chatter at this start line and I am not usually talkative pre-race so that was ok with me.  The “gun” goes off and we are off.  I hoped to find some people running my pace so I could pace off of them and do a little drafting as well.  I found a group of like 3-4 at the start but then they picked up the pace a little and I dropped back.  I figured, “run your race”, but with the wind and the opportunity to pace off of other I quickly picked it up to catch up.

We ran together for the first 5 miles but it was not in a tight pack.  They would surge a bit and I would hang back then they’d slow and I’d get ahead.  Then the women I was running with and I dropped the other few people in the race and we were doing a good job of pacing each other.  Then, here is where the 10k comes into play, right as I was about to ask her what time she was going for she made the 10k turn.  DAMN!  Now I am all alone.

Starting to kick it in a bit

Starting to kick it in a bit

So the rest of the race was me running all by myself, except for the few high school kids running the aid stations and telling us where to turn.  I kept checking my watch and trying to calculate how far off pace I was.  I told myself that once I hit mile 10 I would start to pick it up.  Once I got there I looked at my watch and saw I had 18 minutes to cover that distance for the 1:19.  Ok not too bad (well I miscalculated a little there and had less time).  So I start to pick it up and I am GASED!  I run the last 2 miles in 5:57 and 5:56.  I am still in denial that I can get that time so I kick and kick and kick.  I see someone ahead of me like 100 yards but I don’t really care about him since I am going for time.  Then about 200 yards from the finish I see my watch hit 1:19.  Damnit!  Well still a PR but not what I wanted.  I start to sprint it in and the other guy surges as well.  We sprint next to each other but I edge him out at the end before my legs basically give out and I have to lean against the barrier to keep myself up.

Here is the Garmin file for my race if anyone wants to check it out.  Chi-Town 1/2 Marathon Garmin Data

PAINFUL finish

PAINFUL finish

Results: 1:19:26, 5th Overall and 2nd AG (good for a PR)

Now time for a few more weeks of training then in 18 days it’s time to run the Boston Marathon!!!!

Vacation Time!!! (and gluten “free” update)

Now that my semester is over and the weather is getting colder what could be better than taking a trip somewhere warm?  Going on a cruise to somewhere warm!  I am super excited to get away from this weather and get some sun and relax.  My GF and I are leaving Saturday for Ft. Lauderdale then heading on a cruise to the Bahamas where we will stay for a few nights then head back.  We will be gone until the following Friday so that’s almost a week of fun and sun!  I have never done a winter vacation or gone on a cruise so killing both of these birds is more than ok with me.  I am excited to get away to recharge my mind and body because when I come back reality sets in.  I am starting my student teaching in the spring and my training season for 2013 will start.  I am looking forward to both of those things but I need a nice vacation to just get away from everything and relax.

It might be hard but I am not bringing running shoes and only bringing swim goggles.  I might train a bit but I might not.  I think it would be cool to swim in the ocean or run on the beach but the biggest thing I want to do is relax and chill out with my GF, and of course get a tan!

Now for my quick diet update.  Last post I was very diligent with my gluten free diet.  Since then I have dialed down a bit.  I am not super strict with it but I have not had bread, pasta, or other big flour items since my diet has started.  I have had a few cookies here and there but nothing too big.  I have pretty much taken this “Low Gluten diet” and have been using it.  I kind of figured I have no gluten sensitivity so if I have a little gluten I won’t freak out about it but I will try to not have big gluten meals or anything like that because I feel a little better after cutting it out.

Happy holidays and I am looking forward to putting on a few extra holiday pounds!

Gluten free diet update

For those who follow me on twitter or read this blog know that I am experimenting with a gluten free diet.  I am 16 days in and it’s going well.  The thing I was worried most about is how I would manage this diet with my massive sweet tooth.  Well, there is an amazing wheat free bakery in Evanston called, Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery.  I bought bread and some cookies, and a brownie, from there a few weeks ago and while it was a bit more expensive than another bakery the price was well worth it because the bread and sweets were amazing.  The good thing is Whole Foods and most grocery stores now have a good selection of gluten free products or mixes.  I made some gluten free chocolate chip cookies a few days ago and, well all the cookies are gone, haha.  Yes, I have a problem with sweets!

The main question I get when saying I am on a gluten free diet is “why?”.  The main reason I decided to try it was to test my self control, but also because I have heard many stories of people feeling better after taking gluten out of their diet.  Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and it usually does not fully digest because it is a “foreign” substance.  And that undigested junk in your GI tract can cause gas, bloating and other not so nice issues.  A big reason many endurance athletes are going gluten free is because gluten can mess with the body’s insulin levels because the gluten is converted into sugar.  The GI tract issues have not been a big issue for me but once the GI tract is stressed these issues can come about.  Most people who are not gluten sensitive might not feel the benefits of a gluten free diet but those of us who are crazy enough to compete in long distance events could feel the effects because fueling for those events causes massive stress on the body and the GI tract.

I have also read that a gluten free diet can help with attention issues as well as stress.  I tried to find some research to back this up but my laziness caused me to not look that hard but I probably should.  Maybe that will be something I do over my Thanksgiving break and check back in.

One thing I have noticed is with this diet I am eating better when eating at restaurants.  This is mainly because I cannot eat a whole pizza, or a big ass burger like I used to.  I usually have to go with a salad, which I don’t mind, or get something and not have the bread.  This is probably a good thing because bread, pasta, and other of those carbs are very high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Welp, that’s my 2 week update.  Hopefully I can keep it going through Thanksgiving because I have read it takes around 2-6 months to get all the gluten out of you body.  But we shall see!  (I am not a dietician, nutritionist, or doctor so if I have mistyped or said something false please point me in the right direction because I do not want to come across that I know it all!)

The “Off Season”

So now that my race season is officially over I get to relax (well a little)!  I am pretty much training when I want and doing what I want.  I took a nice little break after the Chicago Marathon of doing absolulely nothing besides eating, eating, and more eating.  If I wanted something I ate it.  I needed that break from the diet I had been on since pretty much January.  But now I am back to training.  I don’t have a structured training plan, I pretty much wake up and decide if I want to swim, bike, run, or lift weights.  I have come to the realization that I cannot not train.  I get way too wound up and antsy if I am sitting around too much.  This can be good or bad.  But I am working on it.

I have done one cyclocross race which was a blast and I plan on doing some more.  I have also signed up for a few 5K running races which hurt so much but are also fun because they’re over in like 18 minutes.  But it’s 18 minutes of pure hell.

On another note, I am trying out a gluten free diet.  I am 2 days in and so far so good.  I have not found a GF bread yet and the toughest part of this diet will be finding good tasting sweets!  I am doing it just to kind of see if I can and to test my self control.  Let’s see how long it lasts.

Well that’s about all that is new with me, oh and I got a MacBook yesterday!  I needed a new computer but I decided to splurge and treat myself to a new toy.  And my bike training tool is TrainerRoad which is an amazing program!  Welp, until next time, have a good one and thanks for reading!